Boris Becker has spoken of his “brutal” prison experience in the UK, adding that during his incarceration he had to surround himself with “tough boys” for protection.
The three-times Wimbledon men’s singles champion served eight months of his two-and-a-half-year sentence for hiding £2.5m of assets and loans in a bankruptcy fraud case. He was released from prison in December and deported from the UK.
Becker told BBC Radio 5 Live Breakfast: “Whoever says that prison life isn’t hard and isn’t difficult, I think is lying.
“It was a very brutal … a very, very different experience to what you see in the movies, what you’ve heard from stories.”
He said inmates had to “fight every day” for survival and that being a famous tennis player meant nothing in prison, where he had been surrounded by “murderers, by drug dealers, by rapists, by people smugglers, by dangerous criminals”.
“You fight every day for survival. Quickly, you have to surround yourself with the tough boys, as I would call it, because you need protection.”
His incarceration “humbled” him, he said, adding: “I’m a survivor; I’m a tough cookie. I’ve taken the incarceration, but I’ve also taken the glory and if anything this made me a stronger, better man.”
He is now building his life’s “third chapter”, he said.
Reflecting on his tennis career and becoming the youngest ever Wimbledon men’s singles champion in 1985, at 17, Becker said there was no “handbook” for how a teenager in such a situation should behave. The fame and fortune had been, he said, “very new”.
He said he had never studied business or finance, and after his tennis career he made decisions that were “probably badly advised”, but added: “It was my decision.”
Becker, 55, spent the first weeks of his detention at Wandsworth prison in south-west London, and was then at Huntercombe prison in Oxfordshire.
He will not be able to return to the UK until October 2024 at the earliest but said he missed London and would “love” to return to his commentating role at Wimbledon.
Any foreign national who is convicted of a crime in the UK and given a prison sentence is considered for deportation at the earliest opportunity.
A deportation order prevents an individual from lawfully re-entering the UK while it remains in force.
Once the deportation order is revoked, or is no longer in force, the person concerned will only be permitted to enter the UK if they meet the relevant criteria for entry.
Becker revealed he had been in touch with the BBC about being part of its coverage in the future, but that “it’s not my decision”.
Speaking before the release of a new TV documentary about his life and career, he said he had learned lessons from his time in jail, including finding out “who’s with you and who’s not with you”.
“If anything, it certainly humbled me. It certainly made me realise that whether you’re called Boris Becker or Paul Smith, if you break the law, you get convicted and you get incarcerated; that goes for everybody,” he said.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “Any foreign national who has been convicted of a crime and deported is prohibited from returning for as long as the deportation order made against them remains in force.”